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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe talks regrets in 2022

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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe talks regrets in 2022
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe talks regrets in 2022 – Dec 30, 2022

Looking back at the year that was, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has some regrets.

In October, at a throne speech meant to boost optimism for, among other things, public safety in Saskatchewan, the appearance of convicted murderer Colin Thatcher instead threw a lens on the province’s nation-trailing domestic violence statistics.

Moe did eventually apologize following the widespread criticism of Thatcher’s presence — criticism initially dismissed both by Public Safety Minister Christine Tell and the MLA who invited Thatcher, Lyle Stewart.

But that apology came nearly a week after the incident, which Provincial Association of Transition Houses executive director Jo-Anne Dusel called “disturbing.”

“I should have done it sooner. There was a weekend in there but no that’s certainly no excuse. We should have done it sooner,” Moe said earlier this month in a year-end interview with Global News.

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“Absolutely the wrong message is sent by the invitation, in particular in this province, where we have far too high of statistics when it comes to interpersonal violence, domestic abuse.”

And in a year that began in the throes of yet another wave of COVID-19 and is ending without restrictions, Moe says there were likely ways to improve his government’s pandemic response too.

This year saw the highest number of pandemic-related deaths yet amid continued criticism of the province’s decision to decrease the frequency of COVID-19 data reporting.

“Did we always hit the right decision? Likely not, and I’m sure you can very quickly get numerous other opinions on any social media platform as to the performance of myself, the minister of health or the government proper, and that’s fair,” said Moe.

He maintains, though, that all pandemic decisions made were, at the time, based only on the latest advice from chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab and his provincial counterparts.

“That is what drove our decisions throughout the pandemic is not politics, but doing the right thing given the information we had at the point in time throughout that time,” Moe said.

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“Yes, those are some of the most challenging decisions our government and likely any government across Canada and around the world has been involved with.”

Saskatchewan’s financial picture has improved dramatically since budget time. Global News

Following an unexpected natural resource revenue boom in 2022, Moe says his government is hoping to avoid future regrets by keeping that money close to the provincial coffers despite calls from the opposition throughout the year to loosen those purse strings.

“I think this is actually going to be a significant challenge for Saskatchewan, this government or whoever’s governing this province years into the future with the fluctuating resource prices that we have,” said Moe.

Highlighting deep cuts made five years ago as resource revenues fell, Moe said investments like the one-time $500 affordability cheque program, and the decision to retire as much as $1 billion in operating debt show his government is managing the revenue boom prudently.

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“We had to make some very difficult decisions in 2017 because we had increased our reliance on strong natural resource prices in the five or eight years leading up to that, quite frankly,” he said of his government’s reluctance to use windfall revenue in a way that will increase annual operational expenses.

“We are very hesitant to bake in what might be two or three years (of) natural resource spikes resulting in some higher revenues for the province, but to bake that in and have to go back in three, four or five years to the Saskatchewan people and say, ‘Hey, we made a mistake, we spent too much, we have to make some pretty significant changes here.'”

Something the premier doesn’t regret looking back at 2022?

His government’s much-maligned travel expenses.

As the provincial government once again took off to conduct business near and far this year, so did criticism of the costs incurred to get to those places.

“Fair, fair criticism,” Moe said of the condemnations.

“I would say we’re still spending less than the previous government did going back 15 years ago, but fair criticisms. But we are going to find our way to the other parts of the world.”

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Claiming the province is seeing “early mover” investment success as pandemic travel limitations wane, Moe pointed out that Saskatchewan products are exported to roughly 150 countries, adding that some travel has been focused on recruiting much-needed health-care workers.

While ministerial travel expenses are made available online for all to peruse, Moe says choices made not to travel somewhere aren’t so accessible.

“Those decisions are being made all the time with respect to how we engage and where we engage, but there are times when we have to be somewhere in the world and it does cost to get there.”

The premier doesn’t regret efforts to promote Saskatchewan autonomy, either.

Following the now-infamous Colin Thatcher appearance, Moe’s government got to work in the chamber introducing bills like the Saskatchewan First Act, which has generated some significant criticism of its own, and the Saskatchewan Firearms Act — measures he says his government will continue to prioritize in the spring sitting and beyond.

“The Saskatchewan First Act is really that reassertion of what we have a right to do under the constitution of Saskatchewan. It’s drawing that line in the sand and it’s also putting in place processes that will kick into place if, for example, a federal government should cross into a provincial area of jurisdiction, one like developing our natural resources,” Moe said.

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He adds that, with the blessing of the Saskatchewan Party caucus, voters can expect to again see him at the helm of the party when they head back to the polls in 2024.

“It’s my intent to run,” he said.

“Most certainly Saskatchewan’s got a bright future ahead and we want to be there as a government working with and representing Saskatchewan people to achieve all that we can.”

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